Making the Most of Human Trafficking Awareness Month During a Global Pandemic
January 5, 2022
One thing I love about NCCASA is the way we work out and apply trauma-informed advocacy and education and that means when things are rough, we are encouraged to be gentle with ourselves and adjust. I feel this way about Human Trafficking Awareness Month (HTAM) occurring during a global pandemic, and all that that has brought with it.
So how to bring a trauma-focused framework into January 2022?
One way is practicing awareness of and making adjustments to information-overload, lessened “margin,” and the daily uncertainty that goes with a pandemic. In that context, I share with you a few thoughts on ways to observe Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Screen Out the Noise
Resist the pressure that “doing anti-trafficking work” is always being hyper-focused on what all the other organizations are doing. We are not in competition with one another and don’t have to “keep up,” or duplicate others’ work. We can choose quality and evidence-informed resources and training opportunities for ourselves that promotes learning that will most benefit survivors.
Unfortunately a lot of “noise” that needs screening out includes popular information about human trafficking that is simplistic, sensational, and excludes marginalized survivors whose needs are not acknowledged. Instead, we can look to trusted organizations and nonprofits that do quality, peer-reviewed work with integrity. (See below for some resources.)
Choose Impact over Outputs
Focus on what will help you and others in your community better identify and serve survivors of human trafficking. You can choose how you will engage on social media in a way that will be most effective in your community. One thoughtful but simple social media post or community presentation combined with information about your services and referral process can go much further than resharing posts that do not relate to your community’s culture or needs.
Remember: you can be extremely effective with a single presentation to a smaller but strategic group, especially with follow up and an ongoing relationship.
We can get off track when we are influenced by those whose anti-human trafficking work does not represent ALL survivors. We can get off track when we compete with one another and promote ourselves. And it may sound ironic, but we forget survivors when we believe it is all up to us to “save” them. We can also forget that survivors are already in the work of human trafficking advocacy and leadership without others’ acknowledgement of their survivor status. We can forget survivors when we don’t listen to learn, but only dictate to and patronize.
We can “re-center” survivors in the work by having a discussion among all or some staff about what this means in your organization. Review the Policy/Advocacy briefs by the National Survivor Network as survivor-led guidance in your work.
Build through Relationships
We continue to feel the impact of isolation from this global pandemic and the fallout from an intensely polarized country, which has challenged our personal and work relationships. Much has changed in our culture, but the fact remains that human connection is a felt need and is vital for promoting cultures of healing in our communities. Finding ways to build safe, supportive relationships among other service providers and stakeholders will improve our service provision to survivors. Collaboration isn’t just a word in a mission statement or grant application and it doesn’t require a grant or an MOU to get a cup of coffee with someone.
It can feel challenging to prioritize it if we are always operating in crisis, but I can promise that proactive relationship building will prove its worth over time. We can choose one or two people to reach out to this month as a great way to observe Human Trafficking Awareness Month.
Below is a very short list of excellent resources that will help you in your work as we observe Human Trafficking Awareness Month. You can use them in your own organization, or share them with others.
- The North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault is an inclusive, statewide alliance working to end sexual violence through education, advocacy, and legislation. As human trafficking involves sexual violence, NCCASA provides traning and technical assistance to equip North Carolina rape crisis centers and member programs with the resources and education to respond to human trafficking. See NCCASA’s Human Trafficking Information page for information and resources.
- Essential Knowledge to Address the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in North Carolina | NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault is a three-part, online self-paced training program with CEU’s that provides essential and critical knowledge on commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) in North Carolina and equips all those interacting with and caring for children and youth in North Carolina to end and prevent this form of exploitation.
- Six hour two-part training January 18-19, 2022: Enhancing Critical Advocacy Skills for Direct Service Providers Working with Survivors of Human Trafficking | NC Coalition Against Sexual Assault
- Freedom Network USA advances a human rights-based approach to human trafficking.
- HEAL Trafficking is a network of multidisciplinary professionals dedicated to ending human trafficking and supporting its survivors, from a health perspective.
- The National Survivor Network is a coalition of nearly 300 survivors of all forms of human trafficking from all over the United States and abroad.
- Engage Together® helps communities organize to end human trafficking, believing that each person is uniquely positioned in their own community to help end it.
- North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission is the legislatively mandated leader of anti-human trafficking efforts in North Carolina per S.L. 2013-368.
- North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking is a coalition of committed members collaborating in knowledge and practice to provide leadership and support across the state to eradicate human trafficking in North Carolina.
- NC DOA : Council for Women & Youth Involvement The N.C. Council for Women & Youth Involvement’s mission is to advise the Governor, the North Carolina legislature and state departments on the issues impacting women and youth in North Carolina. Human Trafficking is one of their programmatic projects.
Blog post by Courtney Dunkerton, NCCASA Anti-Human Trafficking Specialist